Hill 262

On this Day in 1944

18th August 2017

On This Day, 19 August, in 1944 soldiers of the Polish 1st Armoured Division captured the Mont Ormel ridge (Hill 262) in Normandy.

This tank, named after the division’s commander, Stanislaw Maczek, is part of the Memorial to the battle that now stands on Mont Ormel. 

The ridge overlooked the only escape route for up to 100,000 German soldiers caught in the ‘Falaise Pocket’.  This had been formed by the rapid American advance from the south and a slower British and Canadian push from the north.

Polish armouredHeavily outnumbered and cut off from reinforcements and resupply, the Poles on the ridge held on for two vital days.  Although they weren’t strong enough to completely seal the German escape route, they did inflict heavy casualties and massively reduced the numbers able to escape.

Knowing how dangerous the Polish positions were, German commanders launched repeated attacks from both inside and outside the Pocket. The fighting on the slopes of Mont Ormel was desperate, with German tanks and infantry breaking through the Polish perimeter in several places. 

The Poles were gradually pushed back, and ran short of ammunition. Canadian attempts to relieve them were fought off on the 20th. Despite their precarious position, Polish artillery continued to fire on German forces retreating from the Pocket.

The next day, after a final German assault was defeated mid-morning, the Poles were finally relieved. The Canadian reinforcements allowed the Falaise Pocket to be completely closed on the 21st, trapping the remaining Germans.

By holding the exit to the Falaise Pocket 1500 Polish soldiers with 80 tanks and 20 anti-tank guns had prevented the escape of nearly 60,000 Germans, around 50,000 of whom were taken prisoner. Huge amounts of vehicles and equipment had to be abandoned, including over 500 tanks.  This achievement came at the cost of 350 Polish lives.